On Thursday, September 30, the Ways and Means Committee of the Texas House of Representatives held a hearing during which people testified for and against two bills meant to provide property tax relief, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 90.
What do these bills do? SB 1 would allocate at least $2 billion of the current state budget surplus to pay for that amount of property tax reduction. Giving taxpayers immediate property tax relief, which benefits both owners and renters, is a great way to utilize surplus cash. HB 90 is another property tax relief measure, but designed to be more permanent. It would allocate 90% of surplus revenue above Texas’ spending cap, which was strengthened this year with the passage of SB 1336, and use it to pay down property tax relief. Both bills use surplus money to fund schools and give relief to homeowners paying local property taxes.
“What I have heard repeatedly from my constituents since the day I started block walking is, ‘please help us with our property taxes, they’re too high,” said Rep. Tom Olliverson, author of HB 90, adding it is “always the number one, number two, or number three thing on [their] mind”.
Vance Ginn, chief economist of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, spoke in favor of both bills:
“I think this would help the economy. It would help to…reduce some of the up and downs that families face from their overall budgets from saying ‘how much my property taxes are going to go up’,” Ginn said in testimony.
“Really what these measures are doing, whether it be SB 1, House Bill 90, is its basically saying look the state is going to fund schools, which is part of what is in the founding documents of our constitution,” Ginn said, pointing out that, per Article Seven of the Texas Constitution, the Texas Legislature is supposed to fund schools, not local property taxes.
These property tax relief measures have detractors. Several witnesses came forward and expressed concern that the bills may hurt schools’ ability to generate funding, since both forbid public schools from levying a property tax hike for the 2022-23 school year.
Eva DeLuna Castro, a budget analyst for Every Texan, a leftwing think tank, said that HB 90 moves Texas “further and further away from a stable way to pay for schools.” Chandra Villanueva, also from Every Texan, opposed both bills, saying that they “[put] tax cuts ahead of kids,” and that bills compressing property tax rates without a plan to pay for them “are a direct attack on the stability of our public education system.”
“You’ll still be able to fund education,” Ginn notes in response to these dire warnings about property tax relief. “This is not about defunding or anything education. This is still about funding education based on the laws Texas has.”
Both bills were left pending after the hearing, but are expected to be passed out of committee soon and schedule for a floor vote in the House. The current special session of the Texas Legislature ends on October 19. If Texas property owners are to receive the relief they have long desired, one or both of the aforementioned bills will need to be voted out of both chambers by that date.